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Edible-grade herbal 'gulal' in vibrant shades made and packaged by inmates of Tihar, Asia's largest jail are much in demand for the festival of Holi.
"The demand for herbal colours has shot up to 1,00,000 units this year from a mere 5000-6000 units in 2010 when we began manufacturing such colours," says Sadhvi Jaya Bharti of the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan, the biggest NGO in Tihar jail complex engaged in rehabilitation and reforms programmes.
Those queueing up to buy the packaged colours fashioned from maize and flour starch and sold at 25 to 30 outlets in the city include corporate buyers. "We have had a very good response this year regarding sales of the herbal colours," says Sunil Gupta, PRO, Tihar Jail.
"Current inmates as well as those who have been freed work together professionally to make the colours. For example one person might take care of consignment, packaging and dispatching of the colours, another contributes to marketing of the products at various stalls, while somebody else looks after the sales, and yet another has been put in charge of storage and inventory," says Jaya Bharti.
The colours all handmade are skin friendly and are not detrimental to health because they do not contain any heavy metals and are lab tested. "These are totally chemical free herbal colours made from flour and maize and give everlasting respite to people from all allergies, ill-effects etc" she says.
Jaya also points out that prisoners also do the packaging. "We use recycled paper and water soluble ink for packaging. The packaging and quality is appreciated all over
the world", she says.
Begun under "Colours of Change", the herbal colours are currently made by 50 male and 38 women prisoners. "When we started the program two years ago, only 7-8 women were engaged with us but this time the number has gone up to 38", says Jaya.